Monday, May 21, 2007

Police warn of surveillance state

Ian ReadheadWe are frequently told by the Home Office that the police are demanding new surveillance powers. But after last week's broadside against ID cards by the acting Chief Constable of Suffolk, we now get this from Ian Readhead, Hampshire's deputy chief constable (via FIPR):

"I have to question: does the camera actually instill in individuals a great feeling of safety and does it present serious offences taking place?

"I'm struggling with seeing the deployment of cameras in our local village as being a benefit to policing; I understand why the local public say this is what we want, but I'm really concerned about what happens to the product of these cameras, and what comes next? If it's in our villages — are we really moving towards an Orwellian situation with cameras on every street corner? I really don't think that's the kind of country that I want to live in…

"We are in a society at the moment where the police have the power that if they arrest a 15-year-old for a recordable offence we can retain their DNA and their fingerprints.

"That information would be kept for life unless there were exceptional circumstances, such as it being proved that no crime was committed.

"My real worry is this. Fifteen years from now we are still holding that DNA and that arrest information — should we be doing that? Is it right that that may impede that person — who's never been arrested again — from getting a job? I'm not sure that sits comfortably with me."

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